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tv   France 24  LINKTV  June 22, 2015 2:30pm-3:01pm PDT

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' 's harvest time, and many of the workers are underage. day after day, children have to carry sacks weighing up to 50 kilos, often more than their own body weight. [indistinct chatter] narrator: pablo is just 9 years old. he works hard for the plantation owner. one might say
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he's working hard for germany too. [indistinct chatter] germans prize a good cup of coffee as something to be savored, a pleasant vice. woman: we're coffee junkies. we drink it from morning to night. second woman: it's almost a kind of meditation. narrator: and it's a pleasure almost everyone can enjoy. do you have any idea what a cup of coffee you make at home costs? shopper: about 30 0r 40 cents. narrator: quite often it's hardly more than 5 cents.
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this ship has sailed a good 9,000 kilometers carrying top-quality coffee from guatemala to hamburg. here the coffee will be processed and heavily taxed. but the price of a cup is still just about 5 cents. the highlands of guatemala. the start of a journey into the heart of the coffee industry.
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of the two main species of coffee, arabica is held in the highest esteem. and arabica from guatemala is especially prized. yet guatemala is one of the poorest countries in latin america. nearly all the coffee farming here is concentrated in the hands of a few big landowners. centuries ago, this land belonged to the native american maya. today, their descendants are the poorest ethnic group in a poor country. alvaro: for centuries, the situation has persisted here that a great many of the maya have to work on the coffee plantations to live. they don't have enough land of their own, and it isn't very fertile. they need an intensive development program if they're going to live under conditions fit for human beings.
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the system on many of the plantations is downright feudal, rife with injustice, bad pay exploitation, and inhuman living conditions. [dog barking] narrator: here, a coffee plantation, or any plantation, is known is known as a finca. most of guatemala's fincas are heavily guarded. [dog barking] the camera has to stay out of sight. we're here with someone who's not exactly welcome-- the union activist julio archilas. but no one takes much notice as we venture higher up onto the plantation. archilas shows us where he grew up. a workers' dormitory, now deserted, on the plantation grounds. how old were you when you started working? archilas: i was 8 when i started picking coffee.
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narrator: archilas toiled away 3 decades of his life here. this is the first time he's been back in years. archilas: [indistinct] i left behind an entire life here. now a lot of memories are coming back. my mother. my father. i was born here. this is all a bit much. narrator: as archilas grew older he began to question and reject the conditions on the finca and the miserable pay. the landowners saw him as a troublemaker. he was forced to
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flee. today, archilas has a house of his own, and as coordinator for a church workers organization, he helps others to stand up for their rights. his own children won't have to work on a finca. even so, the years of struggle have left their mark. for a long time, he and his family lived in constant fear. antonio: for years the situation caused my brothers and sisters and me a lot of grief. we saw the way they persecuted my father. he used to get death threats, and they wanted to kill him. they came after my father with an arrest warrant. they really humiliated us, but at least we're able to live here in this house now. director: ahh! [man speaking spanish] director: exactamente.
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¿listo, pepe? a las tres. uno, dos, y tres! [actor speaking spanish] [laughter] narrator: tchibo, a major german coffee roaster, is producing a corporate image video. the head purchasing agent puts in an appearance. andreas: what surprises me is that all the coffee berries turn red at exactly the same time. narrator: in between takes for the pr video, andreas christmann takes a moment to talk with us. are you satisfied? andreas: well, of course. i'd be satisfied with quality like this anytime. even more so because i know it's for us. we've already bought it. narrator: tchibo looks beyond the beans to the way they're grown, with as little use of chemicals as possible and no destruction of the rainforest. andreas christmann is here to
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get a first-hand look. the finca is trying to earn a seal for sustainable farming. that means not only does it have to observe environmental standards, it has to pay its workers a decent wage and provide them access to education and proper quarters. they proudly show off the coffee pickers' new dormitories. tchibo currently purchases about 10% of its coffee from sustainable farming operations. it has a set of minimum requirements for its suppliers. andreas: we'd like them to respect points in line with our company policy and the times in general. as i said, we'd like them to observe certain rules. for instance, putting in shade trees, or rejecting child labor. of course, that's very important to us. and on my visits i watch out for these aspects and try to have some influence on them. narrator: this was the last of 3 fincas on andreas' christmann's
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itinerary for the day. [indistinct chatter] from here he'll be moving on to mexico. [all laughing] narrator: but how close is what we've just seen to the reality of life on the fincas? [men speaking spanish] narrator: a surprise visit may be in order, without the company of a representative from a big german coffee roaster. sertinsa is an exporter in guatemala's huehuetenango region. its products are especially popular with many of the german coffee roasters. we show up unannounced. but primo cano is still quite prepared to show us a finca. primo: the finca i'll be showing you has the best production conditions here in the district. and 100% of its coffee goes to germany.
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narrator: we're told that up to 800 pickers work on this finca. but which german coffee roaster gets this crop is an industry secret. [men speaking spanish] narrator: the plantation owner rodrigo via toro, welcomes our team and spells out the rules first thing. no filming without permission. and above all, we are never to show children working. the cameraman confirms this. cameraman: ninos, no. man: no, ninos, no. narrator: these images were taken in secret. the child to the right appears to be about 11 years old. the drive up to the coffee pickers was about a kilometer. on the way, we spotted some 20 children hauling sacks.
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with guards looking on, we were allowed to take pictures of selected pickers, all older than 18. this is what rodrigo via toro wanted us to see. everyone here is working for german companies? rodrigo: yes. that's right. narrator: left unobserved for a moment, we discovered this girl. she spoke no spanish, but her father was close by and said her name was mariselda and she was just 11 years old. ¿como se llama? [father speaking spanish] narrator/interviewer: ¿como se llama? father: mariselda. interviewer: mariselda. father: si. interviewer: ¿cuantos anos? father: tiene como 11. [both speaking spanish indistinctly]
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narrator: mariselda lives somewhere here along with hundreds of other day laborers. just as he was about to see us off, rodrigo via toro mentions another coffee roaster he supplies--nespresso. nespresso aspires to be an exclusive brand, advertising every cup as the ultimate experience. 16 grands crus sealed in aluminum capsules. nespresso appeals to the connoisseurs on the lookout for that certain something. the exotic touch, perhaps, or more or less expensive accessories. the price is unimportant. barista: 380 capsules, that will 128 euros and 40 cents.
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narrator: that's 6 times the cost of an average cup. nespresso puts some of that revenue into a quality program that includes environmental measures and fair wages for the coffee farmers, though it's emphasized that's not a top priority. [barista speaking german] interviewer: can i assume that as an espresso drinker, i'm doing something good for the people who grew the coffee? karsten: i think you can, though for us it's not the primary consideration. what's important to us is to work together with the coffee farmers so they'll be able to stay with coffee for the long term. we, in turn, are dependent on the coffee farmers, but we're also realizing more and more that it's important to the consumers to know the coffee they enjoy comes from properly sustainable farming. interviewer: does that hold true for all the grans crus you offer? karsten: as i said, now, we've
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got the program. at present it accounts for about 50% of our coffee. and we've set a goal of 80% by 2013. narrator: for the fincas on the program, conditions for workers are not the top priority. for the other 50% to 20%, they are no priority at all. nespresso later confirmed business relations with via toro. but they now take the stance that their coffee can only have come from another one of his fincas, one that meets all the quality requirements. [girls shouting] narrator: we visit a school in the huehuetenango coffee-growing region. hola. buenos dias. teacher: buenos dias. narrator: many of the classrooms are only half full. of the 350 students, many are
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out working on the fincas. adolfo: adelante. buenos dias. adelante. adelante. [kids chattering] woman: buenos dias. class: buenos dias [continuing in spanish] narrator: this packed classroom is the exception. adolfo: 125 students are absent. interviewer: more than 100. adolfo: that's right. interviewer: is that always how it is? adolfo: sure. i've been working at this school for 20 years, and we don't know it any other way here. we just start the school year with the children who show up. the problem is that the final exams start in mid-october, but from mid-september on, many parents take their kids off to the fincas to work. so for many of them, we try to hold the exams earlier.
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[girls speaking spanish] alvaro: this is a serious problem. there are about 900,000 children in guatemala who have to work. firstly, the families are so poor that the children have to help out with their labor, and that interrupts their schooling. and then the government does nothing to improve conditions. so the children get caught up in a vicious circle. they have to work, so they don't go to school. they lose their education and end up doing the same thing their parents did. [man on loudspeaker] narrator: huehuetenango city. this region, more than any other, supplies germany's biggest coffee roaster, tchibo. do tchibo's suppliers have conditions similar to the ones
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we've discovered elsewhere? we show up unannounced at the offices of one of the largest exporters supplying tchibo. we hope to preempt any inquiries or communications with tchibo. we're looking for the names of the fincas that supply the coffee. [importer speaking spanish] narrator: it worked. the fincas are nueva palmira and dulce leonarda. after an hour and a half on the road, we're almost at the mexican border. this is one source of the beans for tchibo. [speaking spanish] this foreman explains that the owner of dulce leonarda has lent
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out his pickers to a neighboring plantation for the day. so we drive to that plantation to find them. and among the workers here from dulce leonarda are children. like this one. ¿como te llamas? girl: celia. narrator: this girl says her name is celia. she's 11 years old. and she works here the whole day long. [speaking spanish] celia: si. narrator: a full sack of coffee beans weighs 50 kilograms. [all speaking spanish]
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[indistinct chatter] ¿como se llama? boy: franklin. narrator: his name is franklin and he's just 8 years old. he only works and no longer goes to school. y tus padres, ¿donde estan? his parents are further up on the hillside. ¿ no vas a la escuela? franklin: no. interviewer: ¿por que no? franklin: no mas. narrator: we hear the same story from other children. instead of
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going to school, they work on the dulce leonarda finca. [indistinct chatter] narrator: juan says the pay is 30 quetzales, about 3 euros. but not just for him. ¿para tu familia? that's what his entire family earns together. [speaking spanish] [slurping] narrator: back in germany, tchibo's andreas christmann does a quick quality check before the shipment goes to the warehouse. [slurping]
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andreas: this is an impeccable flavor. it's an ethiopian sidamo. interviewer: what contact do you have to the countries of origin? a personal one from your trips? andreas: yes, of course, when you travel as much as i do, you definitely have a special relationship to these places. you don't hang about in the capitals. you really drive out into the country where the people work and prepare the coffee beans, and where they live. you definitely have much closer emotional ties than people who might not travel as much. interviewer: these are often countries with very difficult economic conditions. can you ever be sure that people are not being exploited, that there's no child labor? andreas: i don't think i've ever
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encountered any child labor on any of my travels. narrator: but we have. this boy is hardly 14 years old. [indistinct chatter] [boy speaking spanish, breathing hard] narrator: on to nueva palmira,
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where some of the children dragging heavy sacks of coffee beans are clearly younger than 14. [indistinct chatter] only one person decides things here--the plantation owner. he decides the workers' living conditions. he decides the working conditions. and he decides the pay for the work done. [indistinct chatter] [man speaking spanish] narrator: juan lives here with his family the whole year round. [woman speaking spanish] narrator: when asked about rights, he says he has none, except the right to work. asked about his hopes for his own children, he says he only
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hopes he'll be able to feed them. ¿usted tiene un deseo para sus ninos? juan: si. interviewer: ¿cual es? juan: [speaking spanish] narrator: andreas christmann is confronted with pictures of children hard at work. and all at once, tchibo's head purchasing agent knows a great deal more about the child labor issue than he admitted at first. andreas: this is absolutely unacceptable, but unfortunately it can't be eliminated from one day to the next. we all want to work together to ensure that this kind of thing no longer occurs. that's obvious. it's an indispensable part of sustainability to eliminate things like this. interviewer: have you seen pictures like these? andreas: um... yes. when you travel all over the world and check things out so thoroughly, you run across it
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now and then. but to be quite honest, i don't think i've seen children that small working for 10 years now. narrator: later, the guatemalan exporter expressly denied to tchibo that these children had been working on fincas that sold to the coffee roaster. to us, on the other hand the same exporter confirmed in writing that nueva palmira and dulce leonarda were the fincas that produced the coffee for tchibo. all the major german coffee roasters stated to us that they would not tolerate child labor in their coffee production, but they could not rule it out. and as long as a cup of home brewed cost only about 5 cents, europe's coffee drinkers won't be able to rule out child labor either. [music playing]
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rom pacifica, this is democracy now! [bells toll] amy: church bells tolled for the nine victims at emanuel ame church. on friday, victims families addressed dylan roof through a video monitor at his bond hearing and offered


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